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FX’s biggest event this fall may not be the debut of American Horror Story: Cult — as Olivia de Havilland is asking the court to expedite her lawsuit against the network over her portrayal in Feud: Bette and Joan.
The 101-year-old actress says Ryan Murphy’s series made her look like a gossip who exploited the personal lives of others to further her own career. De Havilland is the only living person portrayed (by Catherine Zeta-Jones) on the show, yet she wasn’t consulted, and she is suing for infringement of common law right of publicity, invasion of privacy and unjust enrichment.
In a Tuesday filing, de Havilland asks Los Angeles Superior Court judge Holly Kendig to set a trial for November, relying on a California statute that essentially allows parties who are 70 or older to speed up litigation.
“This is the kind of case for which the statute was passed,” said de Havilland’s attorney Suzelle Smith in a statement. “There is a substantial risk that without a trial preference, Miss de Havilland will be prejudiced in not obtaining the benefits of the litigation. She is eager to have this case fully resolved well in advance of her 102nd birthday.”
Even considering de Havilland’s three-digit age, this motion is unusually quick. Attorneys for FX haven’t even filed an appearance in the matter. Also worth noting, the case was originally before judge Robert Hess, but Smith filed a peremptory challenge and it was reassigned last week. The exact nature of that conflict is unclear.
The motion, which is posted in full below, is set for hearing on Sept. 13. Fox 21 Television Studios, which produces Feud, issued its first comments on the dispute Wednesday morning.
“Our project was a meticulously researched dramatization of the well-documented feud between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford,” says the statement. “The law on this is very clear: no permissions of any kind were required in order to tell the tale. Docudramas, such as this one, are original narrative works, based on real, verifiable facts and events. By the logic of Ms. de Havilland’s attorneys, no producer would be able to tell any stories about famous people, living or dead without their consent. We respectfully disagree with Ms. de Havilland’s objections to her portrayal, and we stand by the content, including her portrayal, and will vigorously defend this project.”
July 26, 9:40 a.m. Updated with a statement from Feud producers.
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